WhatsApp buy fuels Line Corp messaging app sale reports, Naver Corp moves to spike deal talk

Written by Reuters | SEOUL, TOKYO | Updated: Feb 27 2014, 15:52pm hrs
Line messagingSouth Korea's Naver Corp said it had no plans to sell a stake in its mobile-messaging service Line Corp after a media report that Japan's SoftBank Corp was seeking to buy part of the fast-growing mobile app operator.
WhatsApp sale to Facebook has fuelled talk of sale of rival Line Corp to SoftBank, but South Korean company denies any such move.

South Korea's Naver Corp said it had no plans to sell a stake in its mobile-messaging service Line Corp after a media report that Japan's SoftBank Corp was seeking to buy part of the fast-growing mobile app operator.

SoftBank's founder, billionaire Masayoshi Son, has held talks with Line about a purchase, Bloomberg News reported, citing one person with knowledge of the matter.

Naver, whose shares shot up more than 8 percent on Tuesday on the report, denied it was discussing a possible sale.

"The report is groundless. We haven't had any talks with SoftBank," an official at Naver's investor relations team said.

"There's no reason to sell a stake and no plan to sell."

SoftBank shares jumped more than 4 percent after the report.

No comment was immediately available from SoftBank.

This month has brought a flurry of deals and speculation in mobile messaging, including Facebook Inc's landmark $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp and a $900 million deal by Japan's Rakuten Inc for Viber.

Bloomberg reported that Line had also received at least one other offer for all or some of the company, prompting it to slow preparations for an initial public offering.

Line is considering an IPO this year in Tokyo or possibly overseas that is expected to value the company at upwards of $10 billion.